Commission rejects 10-story Upper East Side addition

Landmarks had approved three-story addition for existing five-story building in 2002. On November 22, 2011, Landmarks rejected Axia Realty’s proposal to build a ten-story addition on a five-story building at 40 East 72nd Street in the Upper East Side Historic District. The midblock site originally consisted of two 1881 rowhouses, which in 1928 were converted to a single, neo-classical apartment building. The building is adjacent to fifteen- and fourteenstory buildings. Landmarks in 2002 approved plans for a three-story addition, but it was never built.

Axia’s architect, Barry Rice, claimed that the ten-story addition would bring the building in line with the other buildings on the southern side of East 72nd Street. Rice stated that the addition would be set back further than the previously approved addition, and would not impact the majority of the lot-line windows on the neighboring building at 36 East 72nd Street. The brick-clad addition would feature a tripartite design, with two window bays on each side of a large indented central bay. The addition would be visible along East 72nd Street and East 71st Street. Rice noted that the property was located within the Special Park Improvement District, which he claimed was created to promote the most desirable use of land.

In response to questions from the Commissioners, Rice explained that the previously approved addition would not be visible from the street. According to Rice, Axia planned to proceed with the threes-tory addition if it did not receive approval for the current proposal. 

Residents of surrounding buildings opposed the proposal. Attorney Christopher Rizzo, representing the co-op board of 36 East 72nd Street, expressed concern about the precedent that would be set if such a large addition were approved in the district. A member of 45 East 72nd Street’s co-op board claimed to have 30 signatures from residents opposed to the plan. Representatives from Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts and the Historic Districts Council also spoke in opposition. According to Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea, Manhattan Community Board 8 opposed the proposal.

Landmarks voted unanimously to deny the proposal. Commissioner Michael Goldblum stated that the proposed setbacks were not consistent with the area’s architecture. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter found it impossible to justify “such a huge structure on a historic property.” Vice Chair Vengoechea said that Landmarks had been generous in approving the three-story addition, and that the ten-story proposal would overwhelm the building and the streetscape.

LPC: 40 East 72nd Street, Manhattan (12-2690) (Nov. 22, 2011) (Architect: Barry Rice Architects).

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